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The American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA) recently informed its membership about a change in the World’s Championship Horse Show (WCHS) judging selection process per the decision recently announced by the Kentucky State Fair Board.

Background

In October of 2016, the ASHA received notification from the Kentucky State Fair Board that a policy was voted on and passed by the Board whereby the ASHA would form a Judging Selection Committee that would be responsible for providing the WCHS Show Manager, Scarlett Mattson with names for whom to hire as Judges for the annual WCHS effective in 2017. That committee was to be made up of four (4) ASHA board members and one (1) United Professional Horsemen’s Association (UPHA) board member. Per the instructions and policy set forth by the Kentucky State Fair Board, the ASHA and UPHA named the initial committee which included Jenny Taylor (co-chair), Kristen Cater (co-chair), David Mount, Donna Pettry-Smith, and Tammie Conatser (UPHA representative). Additionally in 2016 when the Kentucky State Fair Board decided to implement this new procedure to the ASHA it also determined that the Kentucky State Fair Board would review the policy of the Judging Selection Committee after the first year (2017) to determine whether to maintain the committee going forward. To view the full ASHA Judges Committee procedure for the WCHS Judges’ Selection, please click here. To view the full ASHA Judges’ Committee Criteria, please click here.

Kentucky State Fair Board Decision

On September 21, 2017, the Kentucky State Fair Board voted to return to the previous WCHS judge selection policy, wherein the Horse Show Manager selects the judges, therefore discontinuing the ASHA WCHS Judges’ Selection Committee. ASHA Director, Scott Hagan was notified of the vote by the Director of Tourism, Don Parkinson, which was later confirmed by the ASHA Representative to the Kentucky State Fair Bard, Edward R. “Hoppy” Bennett. The ASHA has received no further explanation of the Kentucky State Fair Board’s decision.

When contacted for comment, Mr. Bennett stated, “[After] a one year trial bases, [sic] KSF decided to go back to [the] original.”

The ASHA did not initiate, endorse, nor present the idea of the ASHA Judges’ Committee to the Kentucky State Fair Board when it was first introduced in 2016, nor did ASHA present any action, or cause any action for the committee to be eliminated by the Kentucky State Fair Board in 2017. Additionally, ASHA was not approached or given an opportunity for any input whatsoever regarding the action taken by the Kentucky State Fair Board to eliminate the committee.

"I would like to express my appreciation to the individuals that served on the WCHS Judges Selection Committee for the ASHA," said ASHA President Donna Pettry-Smith. "I admire the thought and time that these people dedicated to generating criteria to make the task of selecting the judges for the World’s Championships as objective and impartial as possible. Not only did the ASHA Board of Directors approve the final slate for the 2017 WCHS Judging Panel, but a list of the top ten choices were sent in an anonymous survey to the UPHA Board of Directors to help narrow down the field to five. By the end of the selection process, over thirty Industry leaders had input in the selection of the 2017 WCHS Judging Panel. I felt it disappointing that the committee was discontinued by the KSF Board with no explanation of why they were unsatisfied with the committee or the process."

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